China’s biggest state-owned steelmaker, Baowu, has taken a big
step towards exiting the Queensland coking coal sector, shelling out close to
$300 million to settle a disastrous deal that forced it to pay for port and
rail capacity it has never used.
Annulment of the costly port
contract with the Wiggins Island Coal
Export Terminal (WICET) clears the way for Baowu to push ahead with efforts to
sell its stake in the Eagle Downs coking coal mine that was intended to fill
the WICET port capacity.
The developments mean that 100 per
cent of the undeveloped Eagle Downs mine is now on the market; South32 has been trying to sell its
50 per cent stake in Eagle Downs for more than two years.
Baowu has controlled half of Eagle
Downs since it led the $1.42 billion privatisation of
ASX-listed Aquila Resources in 2014.
Aquila had signed ambitious
“take-or-pay” port, rail, electricity and water contracts in 2011 in the
expectation it would develop a large coal export business from Eagle Downs and
other coal leases in the southern part of the Bowen Basin.
Those take-or-pay contracts must be
paid regardless of whether the service is used and have since plagued Aquila,
which is 85 per cent owned by Baowu.
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